Each time I read or learn more about sustainability, I understand how everything is connected. I am conscious of my water usage--shutting off water in the shower as I soap or shampoo up, flush fewer times (if it's yellow, let it mellow) and use water caught in buckets to flush my toilet. However, I did not think about how that water go to me.
I recently attended a presentation by a local community group involved with sustainability in my county. The focus was on water conservation, specifically discussing rain barrels, but other issues dealing with water usage was introduced during the talk. One of the points the speaker made was how much energy it takes to get the water to the tap. He used the example of carrying water in a five-gallon bucket. "It's heavy and takes some effort to haul," he noted. Then he stunned the audience with this fact: the water utility consumes more electricity than any other municipal department, even more than the streets department that leaves streetlights on all night. This concept just floored me.
Here I thought my efforts at conserving water only did that: conserve water. Turns out like the rest of our society, water is dependent on energy, which means oil, coal and natural gas. By reducing my demand on the water utility, I was reducing my use of energy as well.
Furthermore, I learned about other programs this community group was involved with aside from rain barrels. I was familiar with their water conservation kit (e.g., low-flow shower heads and faucet aerators), but they have a new program where a person can retrofit his or her toilet to be a dual-flush: less water used for liquid waste versus solid waste (see example here). While I practice my own flush conservation, this would be another step to take to keep water usage low. For a modest investment (~$60), I can have my toilet operating more efficiently--assuming the do-it-yourself method really is as easy as the presenter claimed. If DIY is not an option, I can request someone install the retrofit for an additional $70. Either option is cheaper and less wasteful than purchasing a new dual-flush toilet (~$300-$600).
I am seriously considering this dual-flush retrofit of my toilet. Compared to other users, I doubt that I will conserve as much water. However, if I acquire a roommate, a dual-flush toilet is likely to get him or her to comply with using less water than my current method of flushing only for solid waste. And family dinners may not require as much water to flush toilets as well--if the kids decide to only flush one time. Since February is my no-spending month, I have some time to think if I want to retrofit my toilet or not.